Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey, killed himself last week by jumping into the Hudson River from the George Washington Bridge. In the days prior to Clementi’s suicide, the 18 year-old’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, had secretly recorded videos of Clementi having sexual relations with another man and posted these videos to the Internet. Clementi documented his anger over the invasion of privacy via posts to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Ravi also used such sites to publicize the videos.
The Foghorn staff is deeply concerned by this abuse of technology, specifically the use of technology as a tool to enact hate crimes. Many members of our staff are conflicted over how this event will affect the public perception of new technology and social networking sites. Foghorn staff members use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and various blogging sites on a daily basis and, like the majority of users, we see these sites as a way to stay in contact with friends and organize social and/or political groups, meetings and events. Sometimes, however, “socializing” becomes harmful. It is imperative for college students to understand that,without a social conscience, our interaction with technology can lead to deadly circumstances.
Activist groups across the country are calling for manslaughter charges against Ravi, citing his intentional exploitation of Clementi’s sexuality as a means for public humiliation. Unfortunately, a manslaughter charge will be hard to come by in court. The United States government does not have the proper laws in place to be able to accurately assess the guilt of individuals who abuse technology. Freedom of speech and expression, as cited in the first amendment, are often used as a defense for individuals who use technology to humiliate other human beings. Although there is no law giving Ravi the right to broadcast such materials on the Internet, there is also no process in place to convict him for anything more than invasion of privacy.
The Foghorn does not think “invasion of privacy” is a suitable charge for such inhumane activity. Technology, however, is not to be faulted. The root of the problem lies in Ravi’s malicious behavior, the cowardice displayed by the individuals who were aware of Ravi’s activity but did nothing to stop him and the flaws in our justice system. If a prestigious college like Rutgers can admit students with no conception of integrity or humanism, then surely students like this must exist at other universities around the country. Although Ravi used technology as an accomplice, the Foghorn staff believes that this case demonstrates a generational failure that runs significantly deeper than the simple misuse of social-networking websites. Homophobia, media-influenced desire to witness public humiliation (e.g. “American Idol” and “The Real World”), and the failure of our federal government to create regulations on technical abuse are at the foundation of this case. There is no excuse for such cognitive dissonance and the Foghorn staff intends to actively combat any future exploitation of technology or disregard for human dignity both on the USF campus and across the nation.
Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
Opinion Editor: Laura Waldron